blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star (1986, Ron Satlof)

There’s a lot of camp value to The Case of the Shooting Star. During William Katt’s investigation scenes, his clothes get more and more absurd. At one point he’s wearing a jacket with a tiger on it. Then he gets sidekick and flirtation partner Wendy Crewson, who wears really loud eighties pants, and it becomes more about their banter.

But the camp factor is more than just Katt, it’s the plot–Joe Penny’s a hotheaded action movie actor-director (Joe Penny playing Clint Eastwood)–and it’s how they keep making a big deal out of shooting in New York when the movie was obviously filmed somewhere else (Toronto). Only it must have shot somewhere else too because the tough neighborhood set has palm trees in the background.

And Alan Thicke plays a talk show host. What’s not campy about Alan Thicke playing a talk show host.

Even without the camp value though, Shooting Star’s a pretty solid diversion. Katt’s likable, especially with Crewson. Thicke’s good, Penny’s good enough. There are a lot of decent supporting turns–Ron Glass, Ross Petty, Mary Kane, J. Kenneth Campbell. Opposing counsel David Ogden Stiers seems a little better this time out. He pretends to take it a little more seriously. And Jennifer O’Neill is great as an old friend of Perry Mason. She gets a lot to do in the first act and she’s fantastic. The script doesn’t give her as much to do later, which is too bad, but she’s solid to the melodramatic finish.

Speaking of the script, Anne Collins does an excellent job juggling all the characters and all the expository dialogue. It’s not a great murder mystery, but it’s smooth and digestible writing.

Technically, the movie’s a bit of a disaster because of different film stocks. It’s even worse because camera setups figure into the story and so Shooting Star invites the viewer to think about how poorly the setups are working in this movie. Satlof’s direction isn’t as bad as I was expecting. He’s still weak on coverage, but he is giving his actors more space to move around here.

Oh. Yeah. Speaking of the lead actors. Burr’s good. He’s got some character stuff, not always successful but usually, he’s got the lawyer stuff, not always successful but usually, and he’s got a decent enough teleplay to get him through. Unfortunately, Barbara Hale gets nothing to do in this entry. Otherwise, it delivers on all promise a Perry Mason TV movie can offer.

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